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FAQs on Genus Brochis (Emerald Green) Cats

Related Articles: Callichthyid CatfishesSummer loving: cats in the garden, kittens in the kitchen by Neale Monks,

FAQs on: Callichthyids 1, Callichthyids 2,
FAQs on: Callichthyid Identification, Callichthyid Behavior, Callichthyid Compatibility, Callichthyid Selection, Callichthyid Systems, Callichthyid Feeding, Callichthyid Disease, Callichthyid Reproduction, Catfish: Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease,


Corydoras/Brochis Feeding    /RMF     4/17/14
Greeting WetWebMedia Crew, I tried to feed my Corydoras and Brochis splendens
<Oh! Just reading re this genus in the current Amazonas mag.>
school a small piece of banana. They immediately started feeding. I was a little surprised to see that. I have noticed them feeding on decomposing plants (Hydrocotyle umbellata) in the past but was unsure about banana. Its seems like a healthy snack but was very messy.(I did a water change after feeding) Thought somebody may want to know. Thanks for the great site.
Aloha Brandon
<Thanks for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Corydoras/Brochis Feeding
    /Neale      4/17/14
Greeting WetWebMedia Crew, I tried to feed my Corydoras and Brochis splendens school a small piece of banana. They immediately started feeding. I was a little surprised to see that. I have noticed them feeding on decomposing plants (Hydrocotyle umbellata) in the past but was unsure about banana. Its seems like a healthy snack but was very messy. (I did a water change after feeding) Thought somebody may want to know. Thanks for the great site. Aloha Brandon
<Catfish will try all sorts of foods. I've been to a public aquarium where they pretty much throw a fruit bowl into the big catfish tank and let them graze over the week -- grapes, oranges, all sorts of fruit! Do remember that South American catfish, like South American cichlids and piranhas, will adapt their diet as the River Amazon water level goes up and down across the year. In the dry season catfish and other Amazonian fish will have to eat what they can find, sometimes small fish trapped in pools, sometimes carrion, sometimes aquatic invertebrates. In the rainy season they swim into the flooded forest and eat all sorts of fruits and seeds as well as the abundant insects and insect larvae. In other words, these fish are programmed to try all sorts of foods, and the more variety, the better for them! Cheers, Neale.>


Sick Brochis     8/21/12
I have a Brochis splendens that is clearly not feeling well.
For the past 2 days, she remains at the bottom of the tank 50% of the time inverted, and for the past day with a curvature in the spine.
<This is out of the blue? Review possible sources of poisoning. Copper, formalin, chlorine, chloramine, etc. Because these are air-breathers, think also about anything sprayed or otherwise present in the air -- paint fumes for example.>
She changes positions every 2-3 hours.  On Sunday she looked as if she was standing on her tail-I didn't think much of that as my Brochis often configure themselves in odd positions. 
There are 9 Brochis total in the tank with rainbows (15) and giant danios (6) Oto's (7) and shrimp.
<Odd. Anything toxic to Corydoras and Brochis would surely affect shrimps and Otocinclus too.>
All inhabitants are long term, tank is well established, planted, and receives a minimum 50% weekly WC. Temp is 80 (higher than normal but it is summer),
<True, but unlike (most) Corydoras, Brochis tolerate warm water well.>
ammonia nitrite and nitrate are zero as  I have moved to daily Water changed to try to help her. I also have DIY CO2 disbursed via a powerhead.
<Disconnect the CO2 for the time being. Extreme swings in pH through CO2 fertilisation can cause problems, though there's the no reason an air-breather like Brochis should be more upset by this than a non-air-breather like Danio spp. Anyway, with the CO2 switched off, this is at least one thing that you can tick off from the list of possibilities.
The plants will be fine. Mind you, I'm not a huge fan of DIY CO2 systems at the best of times. CO2 is dangerous stuff, and without automatic dosing, it's hard to be sure you're maintaining a steady pH and a below-toxic CO2 concentration.>
I did clean one of my two filters on Saturday-other than that-nothing has changed.  Two photos are attached-any idea what this is or how to treat?
<For now, assuming poisoning. Do a BIG water change, 50%, and see what happens. If this helps, then another 50% change tomorrow would be a good idea. Also, install a very good quality chemical adsorbent to remove potential toxins; at the least, carbon, but ideally Polyfilter or similar.
If you can, get the water tested for copper and chlorine (most aquarium shops that deal with marines should be able to do this for you). Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sick Brochis (RMF?)<<No need>>    8/22/12
Thanks for the advice.
I changed 50% of the water, d/c's the CO2 and am en-route to purchase a chemical absorbent product.
I can't really wrap my head around the idea of an external poison-I have well water, so chlorine isn't a factor, I have a breeding shrimp/fry tank that receives the same water and none of my shrimp are dying.  I don't use chemicals to clean around my tank.
<I concur with your analysis; it is very odd. Diseases tend not to be instantly incapacitating and don't tend to come out of the blue in this way. Were there no signs at all of problems before? Disinterest in food?
Not schooling with the other Brochis? Laboured breathing? More frequent gulps of air compared to the others?>
She has been swimming short distances, and it takes about 3 body lengths to turn right side up, then usually stops and rests.  I will continue the WC regimen as directed and keep you posted should there be any progress.
<There probably wouldn't be any harm taking a broad antibiotic approach, e.g., using Maracyn 1 and 2 together. At worst, it'll do nothing, but at best it'll catch any bacterial infection of the internal organs without harming the other fish or the filter.>
I greatly appreciate the speedy response and advice.  Be well.
<And thanks for the kind words, Neale.>

Brochis/wild caught question, source, hlth.  2/19/12
Good evening-
Hope you are well. I recently bought 6 Brochis and my LFS said they were bred in southeast Asia - I thought they weren't bred in captivity.
<Brochis splendens does seem to be farmed now; here in England, it's often one of the cheaper Corydoras-type catfish!>
2 died after about 3-4 week without presenting any symptoms of illness while in quarantine (remaining 4 are doing very well still in the QT tank). Are random deaths indicative of being wild caught?
<Not really, no. Poor handling can be a problem with catfish, and also starvation, but these apply equally to farmed and wild-caught fish.>
I see no disease and don't want to treat a phantom illness, but I also don't want to put the 4 in QT in my main tank. I am a bit lost here. I have 5 Brochis in my main tank (well over a year) that would really like new friends but I don't want to screw this up (they are bar-none my favorite species and are near-impossible to get so every loss is really a tragedy). What are your thoughts?
<Hmm, I would quarantine the full six weeks, and then introduce them to your display tank. Treating for worms (as per Discus) wouldn't be a bad idea, but not essential and unlikely the cause of death in the other specimens.>
<Cheers, Neale.>


Battle for food   1/31/11
I have a 20g tank with 4 Swordtails and 4 Green Cory Catfish. I'm feeding them micro wafers that float for a bit and then sink, so the Swordtails knock the wafers down to the catfish. In addition, I'm feeding the catfish Sera Vipachips that sink to the bottom. Problem is, the Swordtails also really like the Vipachips, and it ends up being a battle between the Swordtails and the catfish -- of course, the Swordtails end up eating most of it. Can you maybe suggest a way I can ensure that only the catfish get the Vipachips?
<Easy, this one. Feed the catfish at night! When the lights are out, provide sufficient food for your Corydoras. Do this 3-4 times per week, and you should find they're just fine. Corydoras are nocturnal by nature, despite being day-active in aquaria, and happily feed at night. And no, they won't hide away during the day just because they're being fed at night. Do also remember to keep the tank quite cool, 22-24 C is ideal for both Swordtails and Corydoras aeneus, otherwise their metabolism will be much higher than it needs to be, and that'll place extra demands on their diet as well as shortening their lifespan.
Cheers, Neale.>

Leveling tank stand for 9g Bi-Ube, off-center tank placement  8/2/10
Greetings! Thank you for the rich website and detailed information.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I have a handful of questions I hope you can assist with that I couldn't find addressed on your site.
<Fire away.>
I have had a 9g Bi-Ube cylindrical acrylic tank set up for about six months now, complete with a small school of black neon tetras (5) and a couple of emerald Cory cats.
<I hate saying this, but this aquarium is not suitable for these fish. In fact this aquarium is arguably not suitable for fish at all. But Black Neons and Corydoras aren't at all suitable. They may live for a while, but they won't be happy. Corydoras are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of five or more. Both species ultimately get quite big, and the Corydoras should reach about 7 cm or so, and such fish will be far too big for such a small tank.>
The tank and the stand it rests upon are off-level 1/2" back-to-front, likely due to my carpet (tack strip). Because the tank is so small, and of acrylic construction, I've tolerated the level discrepancy perhaps a little too long. This tank has never been level, and it's high time I remedy this issue... I had a 75g AGA bowfront fail for similar reasons before, and while a 9g tank failure would be decidedly less dramatic, I refuse to be responsible for any further livestock losses (sadly 40 plus fry perished with the aforementioned tank failure). So, with the background out of the way, here are my questions:
1) Can I get away with a partial water removal (say 50%) versus a total tear down since the tank is so small? I hate to put my fish (or myself!) through the trauma if I can avoid it.
<Ordinarily, yes, you'd have to near-empty a tank to safely move it. You might get away with lowering the waterline 66% because of the size and construction of this unit, but I can't recommend it, and don't want to get
the blame when the thing starts leaking!>
2) Can I shim just the stand or do I really need to place a plywood substrate? Again my indecision stems from the small tank size. If the latter, the answer to #1 above becomes an obvious "yes!". If plywood is needed, how much larger than the tank stand should it be? Is 2" on all sides adequate?
<Honestly, if this amount of sloping is just 1 cm or so, I wouldn't lose any sleep on this at all, and I'd leave it be. With that said, a tank this size isn't heavy, so shimmying the stand with slips of wood should be fine.>
3) Is it safe to place the tank off-center on the stand? The stand is rated for a 75g AGA tank, so the 9g Bi-Ube is peanuts by contrast, in terms of weight. The tank has a 13" diameter footprint, while the stand is 15" x 33"... Since it's probably relevant, please note that the stand is composite material with three load-bearing supports (sides & center). The front/back at least don't appear to me to be load-bearing (doors on front and half-panel composite for electrical access at the rear).
<It should be okay having the tank off-centre, but in this situation we can't offer anything 100% certain; you really must check with the manufacturer.>
4) Finally, how important is Styrofoam with an acrylic tank? I don't see any obvious gaps between tank and stand, but I haven't performed the "sheet of paper" test I've read so much about.
<Styrofoam sheets tend to be less important with acrylic tanks and indeed modern glass tanks with plastic load-bearing trims around the edges. My 180-litre Juwel aquarium actually came with a sheet of paper stating NOT to
use Styrofoam. I know it isn't helpful, but again, you really should check with the manufacturer. If the instructions say to use a Styrofoam sheet, then use one.>
Thank you in advance for any advice!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Ps - I think I accidentally fired off a blank email to you all prior to this one. My apologies!! I'm on a cell phone, and sometimes generate unexpected results with an errant button-push.
<Didn't see anything!>

Cory Cats white balls on dorsal fin  -4/7/10
I have a 55 gallon with four guppies, seven platys, eight black skirt tetras,
<Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, can be persistent fin nippers, and fin nipping leads to open wounds, and open wounds become infected...>
a Pleco, and two emerald Cory cats.
<I assume you mean Brochis splendens. Why just two? These are social animals; groups of five or more, please! Like Corydoras, Brochis are totally different fish when kept correctly, and fish that are less stressed are less likely to become sick. In a 55 gallon tank there's no excuse for not adding a few more Brochis splendens.>
My water conditions are 0 ammonia, 0 nitrate, 20ppm nitrate, 7 ph, and a temperature of 78. I recently (about a week ago) just got done fighting off Ich using heat treatment--I did not use salt in addition to heat--and haven't had it recur since returning the temperature to 78. I also perform 25% water changes weekly.
<By itself heat doesn't kill the Whitespot/Ick parasite, so you're deluding yourself here. The point to raising the temperature is that this speeds up the life cycle of the parasite, causing the white cysts to open more quickly. That's essential because Ick medications ONLY treat the free-living infective stages, not the white cysts themselves. So, the parasite is probably still in there. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean the fish aren't carrying a low level infection on their gills. Plus, the wounds created by Ick can become sites of secondary infection.>
About two days ago I noticed that both of my emerald Cory cats had a white tuff/ball looking thing on their dorsal fin where the fin meets the body (on the side nearest to the tail). I thought at first it might have been a fungal infection, but I found it odd that they both have it on the exact same spot and in the exact same size. I didn't recognize it on them before, however, I might have missed it. Ever since Ich took over, I have been paranoid about inspecting the fish each day, more than I did before. Is this most likely a fungal infection or is this a normal part of their body?
<It's a disease of some sort. Likely Fungus or Finrot, though it could be Ick if about the size of a salt grain.>
<Do read, understand the why fish get sick and how to treat them. Paranoia is pointless if you don't prevent or medicate diseases properly. Cheers, Neale.>

A continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my emerald green Cory cat has the same illness 9/22/09
I am still struggling with the problem Neale responded to in August.
<Oh dear.>
The latest news is one of my balloon belly mollies died last week, the one that gave birth a few weeks earlier.
<Too bad.>
I noticed that she was stuck to the filter and assumed she was dead, but when I unplugged it she swam away. Then shortly after I noticed she was swimming oddly, a little crooked.
<Physical damage, to the fins at least, perhaps more serious. Balloon Mollies are deformed right from the get-go, with a crooked spine and deformed swim bladder. They swim poorly even in the best of health, and Mollies generally are prone to poor health in freshwater tanks. A deformed, sensitive species...? No thanks -- I recommend against them.>
She would stay close to the bottom but swam up eagerly whenever it was feeding time. She got stuck on the filter a couple more times throughout a few days and then died. I wasn't sure this odd swimming was due to the filter mis-hap or if she was sick and weak before the first filter incident.
<Healthy fish don't get sucked into filters, so if you see a dead fish in a filter, it was moribund/dead before it got there.>
And four days ago my Cory cat (the only one) showed the same signs of illness as my dojo loach - red around the gill area and at the base of his fins. He was also swimming insanely and I saw rapid gill movement.
<Interesting that these are both bottom feeders. I wonder if there's something wrong with your substrate and/or water circulation. If this was me, I'd replace the substrate (or at least thoroughly clean in outside the tank, e.g., in a bucket using a garden hose) and then check the filter was shifting water along the bottom of the tank properly.>
I put him in the quarantine tank with the dojo loach and started Maracyn-2.
They have had four days of treatment now. The Cory cat developed mouth rot too, just like the dojo did. And yesterday I noticed a whitish lump on his underside. I'm going to try to attach a picture at the bottom of this e-mail somehow (I have not been successful ever at resizing pictures).
<Again, the mouth and the belly (and the whiskers, so check those) are in contact with the substrate. A dirty substrate promotes (though doesn't cause) bacterial infections by producing the conditions those bacteria prefer. One reason I like sand rather than gravel is that it's less likely to get dirty, and also less likely to physically abrade sore or sensitive tissues. The addition of Malayan Livebearing Snails to tanks with a sandy substrate is a good way to keep the sand clean and well oxygenated.>
I figured that since the dojo loach, although healed from mouth rot, was still looking a little pinkish all this time, that this bacterial infection was still lingering (or incurable and I should pick up some clove oil soon as you had suggested in the first place) and it couldn't hurt to do another treatment. The hole in his head hasn't gotten any bigger and looks like it is either just staying put or healing at a slow rate.
And here is all of the info about my tank:
(this is from my records from starting it up, figured I'd give you all the info - sorry if it's way too much)
55 gallons
first set up February 28th 2009 - I tried to do a fishless cycle and thought I was successful, though now I wonder.
on this set-up day I filled the tank, used Prime, poured some of my established 10 gallon tank water into the new tank, added purchased bacteria, added a tank decoration from the 10 gallon tank.
Day 6, I tested the water
GH 180
KH 120
PH 7.5
Day 7 added water softener pouch for 7 hours and tested:
GH 120 (test strips hard to read, but wasn't the solid 180 color it was on Day 6)
KH 120/180 (test strips hard to read)
PH 6.5
<Why the water softener? Why are you lowering the pH? Let's be clear: a pH of 7.5 is ideal for most aquarium fish. Multiple reasons, but the important ones are [a] the filter bacteria prefer a basic pH, and [b] hard, alkaline water is less likely to experience pH variation than soft, acid water.
Unless you're breeding fish that specifically need soft water, it's best to leave hard, alkaline water as it is.>
Added the established 10 gallon tank filter, plus another tank decoration (from the 10gallon tank)
added two of my zebra Danios
added more purchased bacteria
<The bacteria are in the system; adding more largely pointless. I'd sooner add a big clump of floating plants such as Indian Ferns. These carry lots of helpful bacteria on their roots, so help cycle tanks, and more importantly, suck up ammonia and nitrite as they grow.>
Day 8 tested water:
GH 120 ? (test strips hard to read)
KH 40 ? (test strips hard to read)
PH 6
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
<Again, we have this dropping pH, likely because your carbonate hardness (KH) is FAR TOO LOW for a freshwater community. Remember, Mollies MUST have hard, basic water, at least 15 degrees dH (~250 mg/l calcium carbonate equivalent), and ideally much more. There are VERY few community fish that actually demand soft water, and you certainly wouldn't keep them with Mollies.
Day 11
ammonia read > .25
<No surprise. When pH gets below 7, biological filters start to work significantly less efficiently, and below pH 6, the bacteria don't work at all.>
Day 13
ammonia read .25 or less
GH 30
KH 40
PH 6
Nitrite 0
Nitrate the test strip was faintly pink, but basically zero
Day 15
ammonia .25
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
PH 6.5
KH 180
GH 120
did 8 gallon water change, added 55 mL bacteria
<Still got ammonia; the pH is low, the filter crashed, and that's likely one key factor here.>
Day 17
ammonia .25
Day 20
ammonia <.25
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
PH 8
KK 40
GH 120
added three red Serpae tetras (from my 10 gallon tank)
<Why adding fish?>
Day 23 and Day 24
ammonia 0
Day 25
had water tested at store, tested fine. purchased 3 dwarf gouramis/added to tank
<Wouldn't touch these fish with a bargepole, and in an unstable tank, their lifespan isn't likely very high. Golden rule: don't add fish while you're still trying to keep others alive.>
added 55 mL bacteria
Day 27
ammonia 0
Day 36
Nitrite and Nitrate both at 0
Day 38
added 3 Rasbora tetras, changed Right filter
Day 42
8 gallon water change
Day 61
8 gallon water change
Day 67
8 gallon water change, changed Left filter this is about where I stopped recording. I tested during this time and everything was at zero. I Figured the tank was cycled.
My tests today read:
PH 7
Nitrate 0
Nitrite 0
Ammonia 0
ALK KH 180
Hardness GH 150
<Better. But still, let's get the pH to 7.5, if necessary by adding suitable amounts of Rift Valley cichlid salt mix; I'd say about 1/4th to 1/3rd the dose recommended for Rift Valley tanks should be fine. Don't alter the pH directly; just change the carbonate hardness, and the pH will follow, and in a stable way.>
I use an AquaTech filter - I had made my own filter cartridges for a few times, using the white fluffy filter material (it was the only kind the pest store sold) and charcoal, using one of the plastic pieces from inside a store-bought filter on the inside. I stopped doing this in case this is why the fish are getting sick.
I feed with:
TetraMin Tropical Tablets, "the rich mix for bottom feeders"
Omega One Natural Protein Formula shrimp pellets
Omega One Super Color Flakes (natural protein formula)
Tetra Min Tropical Flakes
I use Seachem Prime with every water change, adding it to the buckets before pouring into the tank
temp 76-78 F
I currently have in there:
4 Rasboras
2 black neon tetras
3 cardinal tetras
1 balloon molly
1 Pleco
all seem fine, except the Pleco goes a little pale in patches once in a while, but this was happening from the beginning and I thought it might be normal for them when they were resting (I had never had one before).
<The patches are mucous, and often a reaction to water quality problems.>
I think in my original email to you (or it is in the Disease Emergency post)
I mentioned that there were to mollies (or platies, I can't tell the difference) that I introduced a few weeks before the Dojos got sick. One of them died about a week after, and the other one died suddenly a week after that. When I scooped it out of the tank I saw that it had a bright red circle about 4mms wide on its side. This is what leads me to think that it was this fish that introduced disease to my tank, but I'm obviously no expert.
<Well, I am an expert, and I'll tell you if you keep lowering the pH like this, any livebearers you add will die. End of story. For optimal results, aim for moderately hard, moderately basic conditions: pH 7.5, 10-20 degrees dH (that's about 175 to 350 mg/l calcium carbonate equivalent). That will keep livebearers happy, while remaining acceptable to a wide range of community fish. Yes, Neons and Rasboras and the like come from soft water habitats, but they don't share them with Mollies or Platies! So you have to use your noodle a bit here, and figure out which species are most sensitive to water chemistry issues (livebearers) and act accordingly.>
The first dojo loach that died had those red spots, but smaller and not as bright, all over his body when he died.
<Still a bad sign.>
At least the Cory cat's getting sick has given the dojo loach some welcomed company in the quarantine tank. He did perk up to see his old friend and they hang out together most of the time now.
Of course I would love to save the two sick fish, but I'm even more concerned about the future of my main tank. There must be something wrong with it, especially since my Cory cat is sick with the same symptoms. Where do I go from here?
<See above.>
Any hope for the sick fish or is it time to let them go? the Cory cat is still quite active, and the dojo loach isn't acting like he is anywhere near death either.
<Likely can, will recover given good conditions and right medications.>
Thank you so much,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Pictures below - the dojo loach is looking good except for pinkish hue around gills and back end of body. Tough to see in the picture though.
You can see the hole in his head though - I hope it isn't a terrible case.
It seems to be staying put.
<Nothing came through. Please be sure to attach ~500 kB images to your e-mail. Images that are too big cause problems for us.>
Re: a continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my emerald green Cory cat has the same illness  09/24/09

Thank you for your reply - I have some questions and explanations and have tried to make them easy for you to find by using lines to separate my words from the original e-mail.
I wasn't able to get the resized pictures to attach to this e-mail and hope that it is acceptable that I cut and pasted them at the bottom.
<Nothing came through. Cutting and pasting images into e-mails doesn't always work. Do use the "attach" button on whatever your e-mail program is.>
I have sand substrate. It is children's play sand. I was told by a fish store employee that it is great because it is a more natural color and less expensive than the marketed kind for aquariums.
<Provided the sand is [a] smooth and [b] chemically inert, you can use whatever you want. Sand comes in two grades, "sharp" and "smooth", and sharp sand will damage your fish. As for the chemistry, the sand needs to be lime-free. Personally, I use smooth silica sand from garden centres as a 100% safe alternative. Play sand, pool filter sand, etc. may be fine, but there are no guarantees. The play sand from one shop may be different from another, so I can't give you any assurances. If the sand feels smooth, that's good, and if it doesn't react with acid (e.g., vinegar) that's good too.>
After Googling and reading the same online, I went ahead with this. I washed it thoroughly, in small quantities, by running water and stirring it until the water was nearly clear. Was this a mistake to use this kind of sand and do you still believe I need to change it or wash it again?
<Provided the sand is safe to use for the reasons stated above, cleaning it is more a visual thing. Most folks find that the silt in bags of sand makes their tanks murky for a few days, but nothing a water change and a good, strong filter won't fix. Replace/clean the mechanical filter media after the first week because that's where most of the silt ends up/>
and I am soooo uncomfortable with the idea of introducing snails into my tank again, as I had way too many in my 10 gallon at one point after one hitching a ride in with a fresh plant.
<Snails convert organic matter into baby snails. If you have too many, then you have other problems.>
This is also why I am super hesitant to ever bring fresh plants into my tank again.
<Non sequitur. There are plenty of ways to kill snails on plants before you put them in your aquarium. Snail-killing potions are sold in aquarium shops and work well as "dips".>
I had "pond snails" I believe.
<Typically Physa and Planorbis spp.>
Are they the same as Malayan Livebearing Snails?
<No, these are Melanoides spp.>
I will introduce the snails if you really think I should though...
<I have Melanoides snails in all my tanks. I find the good they do -- as substrate cleaners and aerators -- easily outweighs their nuisance value.
While they do breed quickly, a combination of physical removal, predators, and simply ignoring them works a treat. Clea helena, the Assassin Snail, is a great snail population limiter.>=
Well, I freaked out that my 55 gallon tank had harder water than my established 10 gallon tank and it was harder than the water straight from the tap. This confused me and figured I should get the water the same hardness as the established 10 gallon was. So I was trying to soften it just a bit, not lower the pH. I had heard so much about not being worried about or try changing the pH that I didn't think it a big problem that the pH changed (and figured it would level out with water changes). Lesson learned.
Why adding fish? Because I thought that adding the three fish (transferring from the established 10 gallon tank) would help the cycle to continue at a safe rate. I was more paying attention to the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite tests than the other areas.
<Ah, I see. Generally, so long as a tank has a few fish in there, the cycling process will continue happily enough. Adding extra fish is of marginal value, unless you plan to *dramatically* increase the population of fish in there at some point. For example, if you cycled with a couple of Guppies, and then added an adult Oscar, that would probably be bad!>
I didn't realize I was trying to keep others alive at this point...just thought I was helping the bacteria multiply at a safe rate for the fish.
They did not last super long (and they were so darn territorial with each other it was annoying to have them in there, too).
<Yes, many schooling fish stop being schooling fish when in groups of less than six, and in some cases, they become outright nasty.>
I am having trouble finding Rift Valley cichlid salt mix here. One store sells "cichlid lake salt",
<That's the stuff!>
and she told me that all of their salts will adjust the pH, not the carbonate hardness.
<She's wrong. By definition, these salts raise the pH precisely because they're raising the carbonate hardness. It's the carbonate hardness that creates the "stuff" that makes the water basic. It's the carbonate hardness that "mops up" the acidity.>
If I did more frequent water changes for a while, will that help??
<Up to a point, yes, the more water changes you do, the less background acidification becomes an issue. But this gets tedious, very quickly, so think about what you're trying to achieve here: an easy hobby that involves nothing more than daily feeding and water changes every week or two.>
I hope that doesn't sound like a stupid question. Or is this something that I would need to add to my tank on a fairly regular basis? (if I can find it - I suppose I can order it online somewhere)
<Do read here:
There's a recipe for making your own Rift Valley Cichlid Salt Mix for pennies a time. It's easy to do. For a regular community tank -- as opposed to a Rift Valley cichlid aquarium -- you'd use a smaller dose than described there; try reducing the amounts to one-fourth to one-third the amounts listed.>
I'm worried about this fish if he is reacting to water problems and am so frustrated I can't find the salt you mentioned. I noticed today that he was pale on about half of his body, and then when I turned the light on, most of the rest of his body went pale. I checked back later and he is dark as could be....tried to take a picture when he was pale but he had disappeared when I returned with the camera.
<Oh. For what it's worth, Plecs are quite tough fish, and given good conditions, generally recover from stress quickly.>
I'm sorry and feel stupid saying this - but I don't know what 10-20 degrees dH or the equivalent you mentioned means.
<Simply being precise. The other way of saying this: on your test kit, there'll be a scale of some sort, running from Soft to Moderately Soft to Moderately Hard to Hard to Very Hard, or words to that effect. For Mollies, the water MUST be Hard to Very Hard. For community fish, Moderately Soft to Hard is generally fine. In other words, Mollies only mix well with those community fish tolerant of "Hard" water, i.e., things like Platies and Rainbowfish, but not so much Rasboras or Cardinal Tetras. You have to pick and choose tankmates for Mollies very carefully.>
Possibly this is information on the comparison card for the liquid test tube version of the tests (and not test strips)? Aside from borrowing a friend's test tube testing kit for the last test I did to get you accurate info, I haven't used those for anything but ammonia (but plan to purchase a kit soon).
<I see.>
Would this Maracyn two be the right medication?
<Either than, or regular Maracyn should work. They treat different bacteria, on the average, people find trying Maracyn first works best, and only use Maracyn 2 if that doesn't work. But your own mileage may vary.>
This poor loach is now enduring a third treatment since this all started, and although he seems to be doing okay, he still has pink/red at the base of his side fins and a pinkish tone to his gill area. He looked this way when I put him back in the main tank and got sick again so I of course don't want to put him back until he's 100%. It seems that his recovery has plateaued and I don't know what to do about this. The Cory cat seems to be responding well to treatment thus far, but still looks red/pink and I assume he will have the same plateau.
okay, here is what I think the right sizes for you to see. The dojo picture doesn't look all that clear, but anywhere where it looks darker/pinkish is the pink that I am talking about that isn't going away.
I am cut and pasting them into the email and I hope this works.
<Didn't. If all else fails, try some free image hosting service such as Flickr, and include the link in your message.>
Thanks so much for your time.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: a continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my emerald green Cory cat has the same illness  9/25/09

A link to the pictures! what a smart idea - here it is.
<I think you're meant to send an invitation to view this online album. As it is, I had to join Snapfish. Normally, we don't have time to go through hoops for this sort of thing. But it's a nice sunny morning here in England, so I joined up. Anyway, your fish don't appear to be especially "sick" as such, though the Corydoras looks a little underweight (if you can see the belly, it's concave, which isn't a good sign). My feeling is that these fish may have a mild bacterial infection, but it's more than likely we're talking about an environmental reaction. Variation in pH, a dirty substrate, marginal water quality may all be issues. In particular, take the time to review tank maintenance. Sand needs to be kept clean, and the best way to ensure this is to check there's a good flow of water along the bottom of the tank. Use a turkey baster to pipette out detritus between water changes. Feed your catfish and loaches their own food, ideally at night, so that they're not subsisting on leftovers; a good all-around food for both species would be Hikari Algae Wafers.>
Thanks again for your help. I have a few final questions
<Fire away.>
If my dojo loach continues to stay pinkish, what do I do? The two fish have had 7 days of powder packet treatments of Maracyn-two thus far. The instructions say to continue treatment until signs of illness are gone.
This could be a while if ever and I can't imagine the medicine is something good long term.
<I can't see anything obviously wrong with this Weather Loach. They can appear a little pink when the light shines through the thinner parts of their body, and if there's something amiss with the environment, they may appear irritated. But essentially these are hardy fish, provided they are maintained at below 25 degrees C (77 F). The same for Corydoras, and in fact I'd keep both species at the cooler end of the range, 22-24 C being ideal.>
And, do you suppose this sickness came about more because of the pH being below 7.5 or because there is some disease living in my tank that I still need to deal with?
<pH itself is rarely something that causes sickness unless it [a] fluctuates wildly within a few hours or [b] is outside the tolerances of a particular species. Loaches and Corydoras are fine between pH 6 to 8, so the value itself isn't an issue. But if exposed to pH that varies a lot, that can stress them. One key issue often overlooked is the toxicity of ammonia at different pH levels. In the acidic range, ammonia is less toxic than in the basic range, so if the pH goes from 6.5 to 7.5, while the pH change itself might be harmless, the sudden increase in toxicity of a small amount of ammonia in the system can cause severe stress.>
Can I treat the main tank with anything to make sure there isn't anything lurking in there waiting to cause more trouble?
<Right now, I'd finish the cause of meds you're on, and then concentrate on providing good, stable water conditions.>
How long would you to treat these sick fish before giving up?
<They honestly don't look that sick to me. Perhaps it's these photos?>
Until the hole in his head completely heals (how long does that take, anyway)?
<Should heal within a few weeks, should conditions allow.>
Until he is no longer pink? Both? The loach has been sick/pink for about six weeks now, poor guy.
<Are you sure it's simply not his normal colouration? Unlike Finrot, the classic bacterial infection, the fins on this fish are intact. If he had Finrot, I'd expect ragged fins.>
He doesn't look miserable now, at least, but I sure don't want to keep him in the 10 gallon hospital tank forever. The last time I thought he looked good to go and I put him back in the main tank, he was sick within four days and back in the hospital tank (and with a hole in his head appearing a few days after that).
<I see.>
I dropped some of the sand in a bowl of vinegar and saw no reaction. I am hopeful then that it is not the substrate that caused this problem and that I don't need to mess with it.
I have a hard time killing snails (or I should say I just can't do it) and will need to look into this Assassin snail if I go this route. Though I am picturing the slowest predator/pray chase I've ever seen, ha ha.
<Prepare to be surprised! When the Assassin Snails kick into gear, they're remarkably brisk.>
<Cheers, Neale>

Sick Emerald Cory... Uncycled sys. env. dis.  -- 08/23/09
I'm new to this whole aquarium thing and looking for a bit of help. I have a 25 gal. hex aquarium which is about a month old and still in the cycling process. This tank was a freebie from a friend. I set the tank up, filled it and let it run for a couple of days.
<Mmm... needs a few weeks...>
I wasn't sure if any of the bacteria had survived from when my friend had it so I purchased 4 Platies to get the bio-filter going.
<... not a good method. Read here:
Tested the water every day and after a week the ammonia hadn't gone up at all. Figured perhaps the platies weren't putting in enough of a load so the following week I purchased 3 Emerald Cory Cats.
Initially all was fine. The ammonia level started going up in the tank so I started doing 30-40% water changes about every other day and only feeding a very small amount about once a day. The ammonia level has hovered between .25 - .5 ppm
<Deadly toxic>
(I haven't been able to get it down to 0 yet and I figured that was just because the bio-filter hasn't fully established yet.) A couple of days ago I noticed that one of the Corys was just sitting on the bottom, it's fins were kind of folded over and it appeared to be having difficulty breathing. Whereas the other Corys were still their iridescent green color, this one was very dark. It also doesn't appear to have it's barbels anymore.
<"Burned" off>
I expected it to not make it through the day (and at one point saw it laying on it's side), but it's still hanging in there. I feel really bad for it, but don't know what the problem is
<... you killed it through your ignorance>
or how to correct it. I'm also concerned the other Corys could be impacted eventually. The other cats as well as the platies seem fine, are actively feeding when I provide food and swimming normally around the tank. From reading through some of the posts on your site I've discovered that my tank is too deep for the Cory's biology (22 inches), but at this point I (and they) have to make the best of it. Here are some details on my setup:
Size: 25 gal. Hex - a few decorations and artificial plants. The filter hangs on the back of the tank and since the tank is so deep I bought an airstone with the idea of improving bottom to top circulation.
Temp: 78-80 degrees
Substrate: small rounded gravel ~.5 cm
Ammonia: .25ppm
Nitrite: Safe - 0ppm
<Not for long>
Nitrate: Safe - 0ppm
Hardness: Soft - ~75ppm
Alkalinity: Moderate - ~80ppm
pH: Neutral - 7.0
The ammonia I test with a vial/water sample/etc, the other 5 I use a test strip. I've been avoiding doing massive water changes to try to get the ammonia to 0 because I figured I needed some ammonia in the tank to get the bacteria colony going and since I bought what I believed to be hardy fish, I figured they could take the slightly elevated levels in the near-term.
I'd prefer to not lose any fish,
<... read re methods of establishing bio-cycling through the link and linked files at top on it>
but I know that sometimes happens during the cycling process. I'm just trying to make sure that the problem with the one Cory isn't something that could pass to the other fish. Any insight you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Marc Venverloh
<Read. Bob Fenner>

Re Sick Emerald Cory, DavidB input   8/24/09

Hi Bob,
Appreciate your quick response. Whatever "ignorance" I have is partly a result of my newness to the hobby and my reading of The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums by David Boruchowitz who supposedly has 6 decades of fishkeeping experience.
<He is a friend, associate... and known by me to be knowledgeable, a competent writer...>
His recommendation is to cycle the tank with some hardy species of fish
<Perhaps this is "old" information... This use/practice was common many years back>
or to use the borrowed substrate method that is mentioned in the link you provided.
<Another, better avenue>
Unfortunately, none of my friends have established aquariums in order to be able to borrow gravel or used media.
<... How about the local fish stores?>
I imagine I could possibly get some used media from a local fish dealer, but given that most articles I've read say NOT to put the water from a dealer into the tank to avoid introducing parasites, etc.
<Akin to "not drinking the water" in foreign countries, but eating food from plates washed with it... Buying livestock from LFS and eschewing the use of their substrates for establishing bio-geo-nutrient cycling is hypocritical. I have many faults/shortcomings, but being a hypocrite is not one of these>
I find it odd that using media, gravel, etc. from said dealer would be any less dangerous especially since I haven't been at this long enough to know for sure who a good dealer is vs. a bad one.
It's interesting to see your comment that .25 - .5ppm of ammonia is "deadly toxic" and that my Cory's barbels were "burned" off. Most articles I've read (including the book mentioned above) indicate that any ammonia isn't good but that the level considered "bad" is hard to gauge since different species respond differently and that you need to observe the fish for signs of stress.
<Read on my friend>
Since the platies are doing well in my tank and the other Cory's appear fine, i.e. no "burned" barbels, is it possible that this one fish was already ill and in a weakened state?
<A matter of degree; but yes>
I also don't understand how I'm supposed to build up the bacteria in the tank if I don't have at least some level of ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.
<Please read further where you were referred... any source of protein (e.g. food/s) can/will supply ammonia... the "amino bond" in amino acids... that in complexity make up peptides, polypeptides, proteins... Or even (though generally not recommended, and def. not necessary) exogenous ammonia (NH4OH) can be added...>
I've read some of the links that you provided in your response. The fwestcycling.htm link appears to suggest a fishless cycling which at this point is moot for me given that I have 6 fish currently in the tank.
<Yes; tis too late for this system>
Some of the other links suggest using feeder goldfish to cycle the tank, but the Boruchowitz book says to NEVER do that unless you're planning to have a goldfish tank.
<I do agree>
The "Tips for Beginners" link doesn't really mention cycling at all.
<I will send this note to DavidB (at TFH) with your very pertinent, useful notes here... for consideration in revisions of his in-print work>
Anyway, it just seems that depending on the source of the information, the recommendations and approaches can conflict or at the least differ. I guess
I'll continue with my testing and water changes and hope for the best.
Thanks again for your reply.
Marc Venverloh
<And you for your intelligent additional input. Bob Fenner>

Emerald Cory cats tankmates   7/2/09
Hello Crew,
It's me Brittney again! Sorry I write you guys so much but I have so many questions and so many tanks. I'm looking to set up a 10 gal tank with 3 Emerald Cory Cats, 3 Platies 2 Cherry Barbs and 5 Zebra Danios. Do you think my tank will be over crowded?
<Oh my, yes. Emerald Cory Catfish are Brochis splendens, a robustly proportioned catfish that has the build of a Corydoras on steroids. So despite being a mere 8-10 cm (3-4 inches) in length when full grow, these catfish are chunky and need a spacious and rather deep aquarium. Something in the 180-litre (50 US gallon) range would be about right, with a water depth upwards of 45 cm (18 inches) generally being preferred. Whereas Corydoras inhabit shallow water, Brochis live in deeper rivers, and rarely settle down properly in small, shallow tanks. Personally, I wouldn't actually recommend ANY of your suggestions for a 10 gallon tank, and if you haven't already bought the tank, I'd implore you to pick up at least a "long" 20 gallon tank instead. The price difference is trivial, and both tanks take about the same amount of space; but "long" 20 gallon tanks offer much more space for schooling fish to swim. "Deep" 20 gallon tanks are largely a waste of money, unless you don't plan to keep many fish, and are more interested in growing tall plants. For reasons to do with surface area to volume ratio, a "deep" 20 gallon tank keeps fewer fish safely than a "long" 20 gallon tank, despite identical volumes.>
I plan to have an inch of sand and some smooth rocks as well as plenty of plants. Please advise me on this, Wonderful Crew at Wet Web Media!
<Do see here:
Thank you in advance
<Cheers, Neale.>

Mysterious Catfish Deaths (and brown algae) -- 07/03/07 Hi crew, <Hello.> This is my first time writing to you. I have been an avid reader of your pages for almost a year, and I have gathered much information. I have also kept fish for quite a long time, and I have never encountered these problems. <OK.> Firstly, aquarium stats: 29 G glass bowfront, about 6 months old. Inhabitants include 3 green Corys, 3 Oto, 1 medium angelfish, 4 various platies, 2 neon Rainbowfish. Moderately planted (a couple of swords, sparse java moss, a couple java ferns, some floating elodea), 24 W T-5 lighting, no CO2 or air pump, filter for 60 G (300GPH). Ammonium, Nitrites = 0, Nitrates = 10 ppm. Substrate = Eco Complete. 1 piece of driftwood. pH = 8.x? (it is really high, and the tests have not been very accurate). Water changes are 25 - 30% once a week (very regular), siphoning the unplanted areas and under the driftwood and replacing with treated tap. <The high pH is alarming. It may be an issue with your test kit. Test kits designed for the "low end" around pH 5.5-7.5 tend to be inaccurate at the "high end" around pH 7.5-9.0, and vice versa. So, check that. Second, what's the pH of the water straight out the tap? Your selection of fish wants a pH around 7.2-7.5, but what matters more than pH is hardness, so you want to check that as well. If you live in an area supplied with exceptionally hard water (such as water from a limestone aquifer) you can easily have a pH slightly above 8.0. Not ideal for things like tetras and angels, though they can adapt.> Issues: Corys with degenerating barbels/fins. The Corys (had 6 at first) were fine for the first few months. They grew from baby size into adult size and were super active. They also had nice fins and barbels. Then, java moss began growing everywhere, and their barbels started deteriorating. Then a couple died. I thought it might be the Java Moss collecting debris and making high local nitrates. But I cleared out almost all of it and the Corys still seem to be suffering from fin rot/barbel degeneration. I put in a new Cory from QT a few weeks ago and it's barbels seemed to be deteriorating! Then it died. Why is this? All the mid to top dwelling fish (including the angel) are active and eating very well, and have nice fins. Also, the Corys seem lethargic and hide under the driftwood all day, only coming out to get food. <Almost certainly the water quality at the bottom of the tank and especially in the substrate is suboptimal. The reason the new Corydoras died was it couldn't adapt to these conditions, whereas the old Corydoras have (to a degree) adapted. Anyway, check the water circulation. Many filters do a good job of moving water around the top of the aquarium but the water flow at the bottom can be relatively poor. If the Java Moss is accumulating silt, then that's a good clue that this might be the problem. Adjust the filter, or add an airstone or two at the bottom of the tank to improve water circulation.> Additionally, the Otos like to hang out near the top of the tank. If I recall, they used to like hanging out on the plants. But there seems to be something bothering them because they hang near the surface and don't eat much algae. This lead me to think there was something near the bottom that bothers them, but I can't identify it. I do siphon the unplanted areas of the bottom every time I do a water change. <Sounds as if there's a lack of oxygen at the lower levels, again suggesting poor water flow. Otocinclus are fishes of fast-flowing streams, and are exceptionally sensitive to static water.> Is the Eco Complete doing something strange to the fish? What could the culprit be? Usually fin rot is associated with nitrates but I tested the water at the bottom of the aquarium, and the nitrates were at 10 ppm! (same as the surface). <I can't imagine the Eco Complete is the immediate problem. Are you using under tank heating of any kind? When using deep, rich substrates, under tank heating is recommended. Basically you thread a heater cable through the substrate, and when this is warm, it sets up convection currents that slowly circulates the water. Works very well and the plants thrive, but it's a little more expensive to do than a regular heater.> Finally, a there is a large amount of brown algae infestation in my tank. It is covering all of my plants and the java moss too, making it a furry brown carpet. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn't seem like there should be a lot of algae. Is the lighting causing this? I don't have a CO2 system, and it is not convenient for me to install one, so I was wondering if there was any other way to combat this problem. I don't mind the algae on the glass, because I can scrape it off, but the algae on the plants is what's bothering me. <Brown algae -- diatoms -- are almost always a problem in [a] new aquaria and [b] tanks with insufficient light. If your tank is more than a few months old, then the problem is probably lack of light. Fish and snails have modest impact on brown algae though they do eat some. Much better to boost the lighting levels. For various reasons plants prevent algae from growing when they are doing well. So make sure you have at least 2 Watts per gallon of water, and that you are using the right type of light (i.e., a plant-friendly one rather than a generic aquarium light).> Thanks for your advice, Alex <Good luck, Neale>
Cory Problems cont'd  7/29/07
Hi Neale, <Alex,> Thank you for answering my question last time (a few weeks ago). To remind you, 36 G bowfront, 1 angelfish, 6 platies, 6 Corys, 2 Oto, 2 neon Rainbowfish, 0/0/10, moderately planted, Eco-Complete substrate. My problem was that Corys were dying and their barbels were degenerating, but I could not identify the reason as none of the other fish were suffering. You suggested that I place a bubble wand near the bottom of the tank so that there would be better circulation. I got a 14" bubble wand and set it up, and there seems to be a lot better circulation. The Cory's seemed more active and happier, so I moved a couple of Corys from the QT over to the main tank. <Circulation of the water is important. But also how deep is the tank? Corydoras are obligate air breathers, and they will literally drown in an aquarium too deep for them. For the smaller species, around 30 cm is about right. Anything over 45 cm is dodgy, in my opinion.> Well, 2 weeks later, they are again showing signs of barbel degeneration. <Time to clean and stir the substrate. When the barbels degenerate, that pretty much means they have something Finrot-like nibbling away at the tissue. Dirty gravel is the killer.> They also sometimes try to "hover" just a centimeter or so above the substrate. <Normal. Some Corydoras even swim in midwater.> So, I am thinking there is something nasty in the substrate, but how can I get rid of it? <Stir at each water change, and siphon out any detritus.> I already suction the exposed portions of the gravel with every water change. The catfish seem more active than before, but the barbel/slight fin degeneration looks bad to me. Is it the substrate? I really love these guys and don't want them to suffer anymore! <I'm not sure. I've never used Eco-Complete substrate so can't comment from experience. But if this was me, I'd be thinking about putting a gravel tidy on top of the Eco-Complete substrate and then adding a thin (1 cm or so) layer of fine gravel or dark lime-free sand. Corydoras love sand, and will burrow through it, keeping it spotlessly clean. You can also add some Malayan livebearing snails if you wanted, as these do a good earthworm type thing burrowing through the sand constantly. Plants can be stuck into the sand and their roots will go through the gravel tidy. If required, you can cut holes in the gravel tidy for plants that have robust root systems already. What this will do is isolate the Eco-Complete substrate from the catfish, allowing the plants to take advantage of the Eco-Complete substrate while the fish can play with the sand.> Also on a side note, my smallest platy (which is less than an inch long) seems to have suffered a couple of bites out of her tail. It doesn't really look like fin rot and she has no damage on her other fins. Do you think the angelfish took a couple snaps out of her? <Probably, yes. Angels are opportunistic predators and will attempt to eat small fish. Adult angels are able to eat things up to the size of a neon tetra.> Thanks, Alex <Good luck, Neale>

Gravel change for (Callichthyid) catfish?   1/10/06 I've never kept cats before, and recently acquired two smaller (one ~2", one ~1.5") Brochis splendens. Several sources recommend using "soft" gravel to protect their barbs, and the tank I have the Splendens (along with a small shoal of Danios who cycled the tank for me) has what is probably inappropriate gravel - the cheap, plastic-coated "Top Fin" brand aquarium gravel. I had some laying around from a few tanks ago so I threw it in rather than have nothing. My question is twofold: Firstly, what sort of gravel or substrate do you recommend for use with cats, <With Callichthyids... small (1/8" diameter or less nominal), roundish, natural gravels... of chondritic, metamorphic origin... Most "natural aquarium gravels" for freshwater, whether coated or not are of this nature> and second, how do you reckon I ought to change it out without stressing the fish too badly? It seems like scooping out the fish into a temporary bucket full of tank water and doing it all at once would be the best way. <Vacuuming all out with a large/r diameter siphon works out best for me in most cases... even if I have to "decant", replace the siphoned, settled water a few times to get all the present gravel. for very large systems, dumping the tank and its inhabitants and scooping out the gravel is easier. Thanks, <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

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